When the men played their Nines game at Cramlington earlier in the season they came away with a hard-earned six points, confirmed only on the last end. Hopes were high that with home advantage we might get a similar result in the return, and those hopes if anything rose when one of the visiting triples team announced that he had only two bowls, so that we loaned him a set.
We soon wished we hadn’t, as he played a blinder. We were always playing to retrieve the situation, and it was telling that although Cramlington won 14 of the 18 ends, none was by more than two shots, with eleven of them being singles. We were always able to get in quite close but never close enough, and crucially not early enough. On the other hand, when we did get a chance to build the head we scored well, with a four and two threes in the ends that we did win. When we were lying shot on the last-but-one end it had seemed we might be within two shots going into the last, but the end was lost and the final result was 11-17. However frustrating that might be, it was the right result on the night.
The pairs had an almost identical score, 10-17, and although they won eight ends it was probably true to say that this score was fair too. At least Keith and Darren (unlike the other teams) did manage to be in the lead at one point, and even at the halfway mark were level at 6-6, but losing a late four when there was already a gap of four shots between the teams was the killer blow. Whatever good shots they pulled off – and there were a lot – the opposition seemed to match them with interest.
The fours won five of the first 12 ends, reducing an early 1-6 deficit to 8-10. Unfortunately that was as good as it got, as they then lost five of the last six ends, losing fourteen shots in the process, so that the final score, 9-24, looked decidedly one-sided. In the second week of Wimbledon this was definitely a case of game, set and match to Cramlington, and we really will need to improve our game for Hirst Park in a fortnight – winning the home fixtures should be a given, but on Tuesday we looked like the away side.
At least the men could say that they were beaten by better bowlers, or certainly by players who adapted better on the night. The ladies really had no such excuse for losing 2-10 to Seaton Sluice at home the next day.
Jean’s rink won comfortably enough, 16-10, bowling neat and well-placed bowls to maintain a lead throughout the game, easing ahead over the last few ends with no alarums. The measure of their efficiency was that when they finished the other two rinks were just finishing the fifteenth end. Or perhaps that says something about the glacial pace of the other rinks, with regular deliberations and measures.
For whatever reason, those other two rinks let promising positions slide. Betty’s team had been 7-5 up, but gradually the visitors started to dominate and the final score of 10-17 showed the scale of the surprising turn-round. There seemed to be no particular reason; it was just one of those things that happen on the bowling green. But the result obviously left us one shot down overall, and in a league system where there are six bonus points for winning overall on shots, that made the result of the third rink really significant.
Unfortunately Shelagh’s rink also saw a good position fade. At 13-8 with five ends to go it looked quite comfortable, but a tendency to play too aggressively proved our downfall, and the final score was 13-16. This meant that we had lost the whole match, including the bonus points. In view of the men’s poor result the night before it was not shaping up as a very good week, with Prudhoe, who beat us 7-0 at their place earlier in the season, still to visit.
This West Tyne match turned out to be very good quality, with all four rinks well-matched. David Ashworth, David Boaden and John Lambert had a particularly close encounter, though any of our members watching it might have been viewing between their fingers: 11-3 up, and then 12-6, they let things slip to 12-12 in the course of losing five ends, but then managed to get the single that took them over the line. Compared to that, Brian Elstob, Blanche and Alan had a positively comfortable two-shot win: trailing until the fourteenth end, they then created a 17-12 lead before losing the last three ends for a 17-15 win. Here again the secret lay in keeping the opposition scores down to one for most of the time, whereas most of our own scores were more than that.
Darren, Sylvia and John McArdle won ten of the 18 ends, with three threes and a four, and this enabled them to re-establish a lead which had been pegged back from 14-8 as Prudhoe won three ends on the trot to make it 14-14 after 14 ends. It was then our turn to go on a run of winning ends, and by sealing all the last four it finished 20-14 in our favour.
Trevor, Jean and Susan’s game was also close early on, tied at 8-8 after eleven ends, at which point a run of five ends out of six took the game away from Prudhoe, with the final result (19-12) being both satisfying and slightly flattering in terms of how the ends had played out. Susan’s consistent delivery of the jack to our preferred length was notable, quite apart from the bowls, and as on the other rinks the teamwork was very good.
Overall, then, it was a 7-0 win to cancel out our bad night over there in May, with a shots margin of 69-53. Most of that difference of 16 shots was accounted for by the higher number of threes and fours that we scored in what was a very close and exciting game all round. It also, thankfully, saved this blog from being completely doom and gloom!